Where there’s Smoke
Copyright © 2016 by Wolfen Saunderson
All Rights Reserved
Danny “Fang” Miller
I solemnly hit the snooze button on my alarm clock and sighed heavily as I slowly rose to my feet to begin preparing myself both physically and emotionally for my first day ever as a conductor trainee for Illinois Northern Railroad’s Chicago sub in which I gratefully had Kella to give my many thanks for. Turns out, she’d known the owner of the company for a good, long while and even with the horrific scratch on my record and deeply troubled past, managed to put in a good word with him and got me the first spot that opened up which fortunately happened to be right here in my gracious hometown. Now the only thing that was missing, was the very wolf who had seen all the good in me and made every bit of this possible, my newfound and dear friend, Isa Jackson; who’s memory was still bearing heavily on my mind as I began dressing in my work gear of the day consisting of my usual jet black leather jacket with red trim over my white tee, jeans, and my old pair of charcoal black work boots that I hardly ever wore since I fucked up on my last railroading job for Amtrak back in DC six years ago. I made my way into the kitchen and after scarfing down a quick breakfast of about eight or nine good sized strips of microwavable bacon, clambered down the stairs of my apartment to the parking lot outside where Kella pulled up right on cue and honked the horn twice as I made my way over and hopped into the back of her new Chevrolet Impala. “Danny boy!” She greeted as I closed the door. “I’m surprised to actually see you on time and as planned.” “Oh, cut me some slack, Kells.” I replied, giving her a playful punch on the shoulder. “You know I wouldn’t miss this more than perfect opportunity for my second time to shine.” I turned my attention to a pretty smart looking off-white grey and white wolf in the seat to my left who was dressed in usual company issue work gear except for a particular mud brown tee he wore under his letterman style personnel jacket that in apple green letters similar to his eyes read, “Fvck You Very Much”. “Who might this be?” I asked. Kella smiled. “This little doll,” She replied. “Is your engineer, Iki Thompson. He’s a good friend of mine and just blew in from Maryland nearly a few months or so ago with his wife Lilly before joining us here. I’m sure you two will play along just fine.” “A pleasure to meet your acquaintance.” He quipped, formally shaking my paw. “The pleasure’s all mine.” I responded as we pulled into the parking lot of the yard. He continued to make friendly conversation and small talk all the way until we headed out to our train, a short local, coupled and ready on the pocket track lead by a single GP40-2 in the railroad’s handsome green and yellow scheme with chevrons on the nose preparing to haul about nine to ten cars for customers all along the La Salle branch and empties that we’d later transport back to Cicero for loading at various industries along the line. “So,” He said as he began inching our train slowly out of the yard. “I see you and Kella are pretty familiar with each other.” When there was a bit of an awkward pause and he suddenly began to notice how I glumly stared out the window of the many things passing by, he sighed a little and said, “Well, you’re not really a talkative one are you?” I perked up at the sound of his voice and looked over quickly in his direction. “Sorry. It’s been a rather difficult past couple of weeks, Iki.” I replied. “I lost a friend.” “Yeah. I heard.” He said solemnly. “Isa Jackson, right?” “How’d you know that?” I asked curiously. “They just bumped me up from conductor about nearly three and a half days ago. I’m actually the direct replacement for her. Believe me, I know, friend. I know what it’s like to lose someone valuable too.” “Yeah. I guess we all have at some point in our lives.” I responded. “So you’re familiar with Kella?” “More than you could ever know.” He said. “We both worked together on Norfolk and Atlantic back even before the merger and name change and have been pretty good friends ever since then. Why? What’s she to you?” “She’s really the one who ever got me on this job in the first place.” I answered. “I don’t really have all too good of a history with New York and Atlantic or a records check with any railroad in the country for that matter but Kella’s actually a good chum to this company’s owner and the two both agreed to never speak of the past again as long as I never brought it up.” “Ah. Got some skeletons in your closet I see.” Iki said. “Well, don’t worry. You’re secret is always safe with me and I’m always the type to look beyond the evils or imperfects in one’s life and give them at least a shot at a second chance, no matter how big the deed. Remember that, friend.” “I will.” I replied with a smile as Iki gradually brought our train up to speed out on the main. “Forever and always.”
We finished our work for the day and soon began to make our shove off for home back at the yard but before I ended up getting back to Lilly, I wanted to pay a special and rather unknown visit to a well-known friend and former neighbor of mine back in Wisconsin who now worked as a security guard over at corporate, Cindy Fisher. She was a kind but rather quirky and slightly pudgy figured German shepherd with sandy brown and black fur and apple green eyes remarkably similar to mine in coloration. Every day when we were younger, we used to chew each other’s ears off about nothing but trains and the rail industry and even spent quite a bit of time trackside by the Union Pacific line that ran not too far from our parents’ houses. We were friends all the way up through high school until sadly she moved away to Minnesota for college and heard she even earned herself a sports scholarship playing for some time on the school’s female basketball team. The two of us had been through everything together and we thought absolutely no one or nothing was ever going to tear us apart. Or so it seemed. I hopped in my new Chevrolet Camaro and began steadily making my way through the many busy streets to the downtown area where I found our company’s headquarters building followed by a brigade of about two to three fire trucks and an ambulance parked out front with lights flashing. I thought it nothing but maybe a mere medical or some other kind of emergency until I looked up and saw the smoke and flames rising from a window upstairs on what appear to be the third or fourth floors. Without thinking twice, I rushed in through the wide open entrance doors; completely ignoring the voices calling out to me from behind. I trudged up the staircase through the thick, black smoke and just as planned found the way to Cindy’s office and found her huddled up in the corner surrounded by a few of her colleagues in the room. “Well,” She said, coughing a little on the smoke in the air as she spoke. “Never once thought I’d end up seeing you here again.” “We’ll have time for a reunion later.” I replied. “Right now I’ve gotta focus on getting you and your buddy’s out of here.” “I can’t.” She said. “Not unless you’re sure it’s safe. You know how I was when I was in the exact situation as a pup, Iki.” “And who was the one who guided you through every step of the way and got us both back home still in one piece? Trust me on this, Cindy. Once again, I’ve got your back once more.” She hesitated for a moment but then finally nodded in response and slowly stood up with the rest of her coworkers and followed me into the hall and down the stairway from which I had come in which by now had just caught fire and I could tell was now on the brink of collapse. Somehow just in the nick of time, we all rushed our way down to the last step and made our way onto the ground floor just as it came down behind us and strolled out through the exit, sputtering and coughing out the blackened smoke filled air as fresh oxygen began making its way into our lungs and Cindy’s coworkers gave their many thanks to me for getting them all out as she and I slowly sat down on the curb to the side and began to reconcile for a bit after her ordeal.
“Iki! You need to see this!” Lilly called from the living room of our apartment. I sprang quickly up on my feet and off the air mattress I’d been dozing off on the floor with and rushed into the living room where I sat down with the love of my life and realized she was pointing to a bulletin on the 9 AM morning news which she rarely ever watched. It was in regard to the fire at headquarters yesterday which I later found out had claimed the lives of two and injured nearly thirteen, one of which being a fireman among the casualties. I read the bulletin and nearly almost lost my shit right then and there. It read simply, “Investigators discover fire was arson”. “Hon, are you okay?” Lilly asked, noticing my pained expression. “Damn it.” I said furiously. “Just when I thought my days as a vigilante were gone and we could live the quiet life, something like this always comes up.” Before either of us could think of answering each other, there was a knock at the door and I opened it to reveal Kella standing alongside a rather angry form of my brother in law, Aaron who regained his composure slowly when he realized I was the one now standing in front of him. “Oh. Kella!” I said a little nervously. “What a surprise. Aren’t you supposed to be out enjoying the rest of your week off?” “I was.” She replied simply. “Until a little incident occurred and I’ve got a little visitor here to see you. We need to talk.” “Sure.” I said. “Come on in.” “Aaron.” Lilly greeted as he walked in and took a seat next to me on the sectional. “Sis.” He hailed in return and then turned to me. “Let me just start by saying that was some lame shit you pulled.” He said with a glare. “Aaron, bro, look. About that…” “Here I am. Thinking the light of my life is dead and then, some time later, I come to find out he’s not and it was all a big fucking lie.” “Aaron, look.” I retorted defensively. “I only faked my death because I wanted a little quiet time from being a vigilante for a while. Some time that Lilly and I could use to live our normal lives and be silent life partners for once. I only did this for us, bro. I’m sorry.” Aaron sighed. “It’s okay, Iki. I understand but next time just please use your words instead of deserting us for nearly a year and a half. You had about a majority of the family torn apart because of that stunt.” “It won’t happen again.” I promised. “Brother and wolf’s honor.” “Good.” Kella cut in. “Now that that’s settled, it’s time we discuss a more important matter we have unfolding at paw.” She motioned to the news bulletin on the television screen. “Right.” I said. “You thinking what I’m thinking?” “Oh yeah.” She responded. “Time to do a little deeper digging. I’ll introduce you to the rest of our little group on the way down to Chicago PD. Get your clothes on and meet me down at my place in about another hour. It’s time you earned your wings again, young buddy, young pal.”
We rushed our way down the many busy streets of the east side headed steadfast for Union Station in downtown. Word was our subject, Vernon Riches, was planning an attack on the usually packed transportation hub and would probably stop at nothing to burn that down too with every chance he got and whom we’d learned had connections to many substantial fires around the city to both rail and other transportation authority properties and infrastructure all around. Kella pulled us hastily into the parking lot a minute later and one by one, we all dashed out of her car and through the double doors of the main entrance where we then began making our way down the halls and into the main concourse where we heard the sound of screaming. Out of the crowd of animals running past me, I could just make out the figure of a black and mud brown wolf dressed in an all-black fireman like suit with a flamethrower held firmly in his paws, spraying fire in every and all directions as he slowly made his way into view. He stopped when he saw us. “So, you’re the famous Oath Keepers they speak so fondly of. Well, you’ll soon be the gate keepers of the pearly whites as soon as I’m done with you all.” He turned on his flamethrower and we all dove for cover behind a nearby wall as fire soon rushed into the very spot I’d been standing and the heat permeated off the floor to the left of us. Trisha Watson or Bloodspill as she was known by the group, fired three shots with her Kimber 1911 at the fuel tank of the flamethrower on Riches’ back which I was sure made their mark but surprisingly Riches was still left unscathed. “Fool.” He said icily. That tank along with this whole suit is made of fully ballistic nylon. So, every shot you take is just a waste of your precious ammo. Out of nowhere, Kari Voucher, also known as Sekh saw a perfect opportunity for a sneak attack and plunged her knife deep into his back before ripping it out forcefully and responding, “Too bad it’s all but shank proof.” “And now you deserve a good night’s sleep.” I said before delivering a rock hard right hook to his temple which sent him crashing to the floor like a sack of potatoes. “All yours, officers.” Kella said to a pair of Metra transit policemen who had just now walked up to collect their catch. She turned to me. “You show promise, Iki.” She complimented. “It’s good to have you back as a private enforcer again. Superb work.” “Thanks.” I replied. “It’s damn good to be back, Kells. Damn good to be back indeed. We turned and strolled slowly toward the exit doors of the station to the parking lot, sharing our feelings of pride, morality, and success amongst each other as we made the free and easy journey home. * *
Kari Voucher is loving it at her new job working for the Illinois Northern Railroad alongside her two favorite wolves that made it all possible for her. But while she takes well needed pride and joy up in her current gig, there are unfortunately others who don't and will stop at nothing to sabotage the railroad infrastructure board by board, from the bottom up which they do so to one of the most valued trains bringing oil from the refineries to destinations all over the upper Midwest and beyond. With the help of her engineer and trusted friend, Trisha Watson along with an unexpected guest, the group will stop at nothing to find the culprits of this disaster and bring their sadistic actions to a halt before more company property and resources/assets are soon destroyed.